Officers from Northumbria Police have stopped almost £2.5m falling into criminal hands thanks to a partnership scheme which empowers banks and building societies to block suspected fraudulent transactions.
As part of the national rapid response scheme led by UK Finance, staff at a number of high street banks, building societies and the Post Office have received special training to spot suspicious activity and catch offenders in the act so police can react in real time.
Since it was launched in 2016, the scheme has blocked £100m in fraudulent transactions nationwide – and since Northumbria Police pledged its support three years ago – officers have attended a total of 404 incidents across the Force area saving £2,499,713.
Of those call outs, 243 criminal offences were identified and 30 arrests have been made.
Detective Chief Inspector Sharon Chatterton said: “Our figures speak for themselves – since we joined the scheme we’ve taken 404 calls and of those, 310 were genuine scams by fraudsters targeting some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
“Sadly we see abhorrent scams like this happening all too often and it’s vitally important police forces work with financial institutions to prevent people falling victim.
“The very nature of these offences often mean by the time police receive a report, it is often too late to save the victim’s money, but this scheme means we have the chance to tackle fraud as it is happening.
“We would ask the public to remember their banks, the police and any reputable organisation would never ask you to withdraw money, make payment using iTunes or Google vouchers and would never encourage you to conceal the fact you have done this.
“I want to praise everyone involved in this initiative for making it a success, especially the counter staff in banks and building societies because without their intervention it just wouldn’t work.”
Katy Worobec, Managing Director of Economic Crime, UK Finance, said: “By working closely with law enforcement, we are striking a blow against the unscrupulous criminals who prey on elderly and vulnerable customers. These kinds of scams can have a devastating emotional impact on victims and so partnerships like the Banking Protocol are crucial to protect the public and bring those responsible to justice.
“Intervening early and educating customers to prevent these scams from happening means we can stop money getting into the hands of criminals in the first place. We would therefore urge people to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and be aware that criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money and remember that a bank or the police will never ask you to transfer funds to a ‘safe account’ or to withdraw cash to hand over to them for safe-keeping.”